October 5, 2023
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a global hub for various industries, and the pharmaceutical and medical device sector is no exception. With its strategic location, supportive infrastructure, and conducive business environment, the UAE has become an ideal destination for pharmaceutical and medical device companies. In this article, we will explore seven key points that make the UAE an attractive location for this sector.
Strategic Geographical Location
The UAE’s strategic location between Europe, Asia, and Africa offers significant pharmaceutical and medical device industry advantages. It serves as a vital gateway for manufacturers and distributors, providing easy access to regional and international markets. The country’s world-class logistics infrastructure, including advanced ports and airports, enables efficient import and export operations, minimizing transit times and costs.
According to the Dubai Statistics Center, the UAE’s pharmaceutical trade reached AED 17.24 billion (USD 4.69 billion) in 2020, highlighting the country’s importance as a regional trading hub.
The UAE’s commitment to developing state-of-the-art infrastructure is a key factor in attracting the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. The country offers modern manufacturing facilities, research centers, and dedicated free zones tailored to the needs of the healthcare sector. These purpose-built zones, such as Dubai Healthcare City and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), provide an ecosystem that fosters innovation, research, and development.
On 03 July 2023, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) recently designated Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) as stroke Centres of Excellence. Both facilities are designated as Stroke Centres due to their ability to provide high-quality and exceptional stroke care through a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of licensed and trained professionals in cerebrovascular and neurological disease from all associated disciplines, including Emergency Medicine, Stroke Neurology, Interventional Neuroradiology, Cerebrovascular surgery, Diagnostic Neuroradiology, and Diagnostic Radiology.
These centers will enhance early detection and intervention, improving outcomes and reducing disability. Their multidisciplinary teams, consisting of neurologists, radiologists, and rehabilitation specialists, ensure rapid assessment and treatment, minimizing the long-term healthcare costs of stroke-related disabilities. These stroke centers will also help in community education and prevention programs, addressing risk factors and promoting healthier lifestyles, ultimately contributing to a decrease in the incidence of strokes and alleviating the overall healthcare burden in the UAE.
Favorable Business Environment
The UAE boasts a business-friendly environment characterized by political stability, security, and strong intellectual property protection. The government has implemented proactive measures to facilitate the establishment and growth of pharmaceutical and medical device companies. These include simplified company registration processes, tax incentives, and an efficient regulatory framework that adheres to international standards and best practices.
As a result, overseas companies benefit from cost savings, a stable regulatory environment, and access to a diversified and prosperous consumer base. Moreover, the strategic location and infrastructure make the UAE an ideal regional and international expansion platform. Overall, the UAE’s business-friendly policies and environment continue to attract a wide range of overseas companies looking to establish a presence in the Middle East and beyond.
Strong Regulatory Framework
In the MENA region, approximately 60 distinct national regulatory authorities operate autonomously to oversee the registration of pharmaceutical products. Various nations within this region have established unique technical and administrative prerequisites, registration processes, and procedural formalities for pharmaceuticals. These disparities pose significant obstacles to the efficient approval and commercialization of drugs, discouraging pharmaceutical companies from considering entry into the MENA market. Nevertheless, adhering to standardized approval procedures and achieving broader market penetration can alleviate these challenges, instilling confidence in pharmaceutical companies seeking to invest in MENA countries.
The Central Drug Registration system, established by the GCC Health Council, serves as a unified platform overseen by the Central Gulf Committee for Drug Registration. Its primary objectives include guaranteeing the quality, efficacy, and safety of pharmaceuticals and the precision of associated information. Additionally, it ensures that medicines are produced in compliance with global standards. The harmonization of regulatory procedures is anticipated to facilitate the entry of international companies into the MENA market.
The UAE has a well-established regulatory system for pharmaceutical and medical devices that ensures patient safety and product quality. The Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) regulate and supervise the sector. The UAE’s regulatory framework aligns with international guidelines, including those set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The process for launching drugs and obtaining medical device approvals in the UAE involves regulatory procedures and can vary in complexity. While the UAE aims to streamline its regulatory processes to attract pharmaceutical and medical device companies, it is important to note that the ease of approval can depend on various factors, including product classification, regulatory changes, and international approvals. They may consider approvals from reputable international agencies like the FDA or the EMA, but these approvals do not automatically guarantee acceptance in the UAE. The UAE authorities may still require additional local data or assessments to ensure the product is suitable for the local population.
In recent years, the UAE has made efforts to improve and expedite its regulatory processes, aiming to attract pharmaceutical and medical device companies. However, the exact ease of approval can vary depending on the specific product, changes in regulations, and the evolving regulatory landscape. It is essential for companies seeking drug or medical device approvals in the UAE to work closely with local regulatory experts who are familiar with the latest requirements and procedures to navigate the regulatory landscape effectively.
The UAE prioritizes education and invests heavily in developing a skilled workforce. The country’s universities and training institutes produce highly qualified professionals in pharmaceutical and healthcare-related disciplines. The availability of a diverse and multilingual workforce, including scientists, researchers, engineers, and medical professionals, makes UAE attractive for companies seeking talent in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.
Not only this, UAE also serves as a lucrative country to immigrate. One of the most significant attractions for expatriates in the UAE is the absence of income tax. Here, healthcare professionals can enjoy their full salary without deductions, significantly increasing their take-home pay compared to many other countries. In addition, the UAE offers competitive salaries for healthcare workers, often exceeding what they would earn in their home countries. This financial incentive is a powerful draw for medical professionals looking to enhance their earning potential. Furthermore, the UAE government and healthcare institutions often invest in professional development and continuing education for healthcare workers. This includes opportunities for training, certifications, and participation in medical conferences.
In addition, the UAE also provides a suitable place for international doctors who want to immigrate here. For, example, in December, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) developed a self-assessment tool, which is a free 24/7 internet service for investors, health experts, and medical institutions. The service aims to support and guide stakeholders while improving the Emirates’ health sector’s sustainability. The self-assessment tool, according to Dr. Marwan Al Mulla, CEO of the DHA’s Health Regulation Sector, is an important initiative that allows applicants who want to apply for a medical license to check whether they meet all of the conditions required to obtain a health professional license to practice medicine in Dubai.
Also, last year, the DoH unveiled Kawader – a unique platform that delivers distinctive job opportunities across Abu Dhabi’s healthcare workforce, as part of its commitment to retain and recruit professionals to Abu Dhabi at GITEX Global 2022. The Department attempts to assist healthcare cadres by outlining openings in accordance with the sector’s needs and requirements. Kawader will highlight available vacancies in accordance with Abu Dhabi’s healthcare workforce planning, thus contributing to the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of the Emirate’s healthcare services.
Recently, in July 2023, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the Emirate’s healthcare regulator, has set Emiratisation targets “Tawteen” for all healthcare facilities operating in Abu Dhabi, to create 5,000 new job opportunities for UAE residents by the end of 2025. DoH encourages all healthcare facilities in the Emirate to work towards these goals by retaining and boosting Emiratisation rates among their healthcare and administrative personnel.
Moreover, foreign companies are increasingly willing to set up various functions in the UAE to create a holistic business environment for doing business in the region. By setting up a wide range of functions in the UAE, they can create a comprehensive and integrated business environment. This approach allows them to leverage the UAE’s advantages, diversify their operations, and access a thriving market while maintaining operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. As a result, the UAE continues to attract a growing number of foreign companies looking to establish a holistic presence. It thus will increase the skilled workforce in the UAE region.
Growing Healthcare Market
The UAE’s healthcare sector is experiencing remarkable growth, driven by a rising population, increasing life expectancy, and a growing prevalence of chronic diseases. The government’s commitment to healthcare development is evident in its significant investments in hospitals, clinics, and medical infrastructure. In April 2023, during its periodic meeting in Dubai, the UAE Health Council examined many national health programs and projects to reach the country’s national health goals. Several key projects were reviewed during the meeting to help the government accomplish its strategic goal of establishing a more advanced healthcare system. These initiatives include cutting-edge approaches to advance healthcare services, encourage digital transformation in the health sector in accordance with international best practices, and improve societal quality of life by improving access to high-quality healthcare services.
Research and Development Opportunities
The UAE maintains strong diplomatic ties with EU and MENA nations, fostering opportunities for universities and research centers to establish MOUs and engage in collaborative research endeavors. For example, recently, in August 2023, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) entered into a MoU with Xlife Sciences, a Swiss-based company specializing in advancing and commercializing promising early-stage biotechnology and medical technology research initiatives. This collaboration, formalized at the Department’s headquarters, aims to improve healthcare outcomes for the Emirate’s residents through a strategic focus on three key areas: fostering innovation, expanding financial resources to bolster life sciences startups and projects in Abu Dhabi, and advancing clinical research and trials.
Moreover, in June 2023, Abu Dhabi’s healthcare regulator, the DoH, established a partnership through a MoU with AbbVie Biopharmaceutical and M42 to advance their joint initiatives in personalized medicine and genomics in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). M42, a pioneering integrated healthcare firm, emerged from the merger of G42 Healthcare and Mubadala Health.
Furthermore, in February 2023, DoH launched clinical trials to alter how thalassemia is treated, beginning with two global clinical trials. Phase III studies for adult patients with thalassemia, ENERGISE, and ENERGIZE-T, are being conducted with the supervision and cooperation of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH). The clinical studies, which are being conducted at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Medical City, provide new hope for thalassemia sufferers in the UAE. The studies will be done in conjunction with many centers and several sites across the United States, the European Union, and Asia, granting early entry to innovative medications at the commencement of clinical research. Mitapivat is already approved in the United States and the European Union for the treatment of pyruvate kinase deficiency; however, it has lately proven potential in earlier trials for altering the treatment of thalassemia.
In addition, earlier this year, Hayat Biotech, a joint venture between G42 and the Chinese pharmaceutical group Sinopharm CNBG, and the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the Emirate’s healthcare regulator, signed a collaboration declaration to kick off a collaboration between the two parties aimed at strengthening the emirate’s efforts in R&D, clinical research, and manufacturing capabilities. The engagement is in line with the DoH’s continuous efforts to improve Abu Dhabi’s status as a center for life sciences research and innovation, as well as a leading healthcare destination globally.
The UAE stands out as an ideal location for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. This dynamic and forward-thinking country offers a combination of strategic advantages, making it an attractive destination for companies in these sectors. Firstly, the UAE’s strategic geographical location provides easy access to markets in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and beyond. Its excellent transportation infrastructure, including world-class airports and seaports, facilitates efficient import and export operations, making it a gateway to a vast and diverse consumer base.
Secondly, the UAE’s commitment to a business-friendly environment, characterized by minimal bureaucracy and a liberal economic policy, fosters an atmosphere conducive to investment and growth. The absence of corporate and income taxes, along with various incentives, attracts multinational pharmaceutical and medical device companies looking to establish regional headquarters or manufacturing facilities.
Moreover, the UAE’s emphasis on cutting-edge healthcare infrastructure and research and development capabilities further bolsters its appeal. The country has invested significantly in state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, clinical research centers, and academic institutions, encouraging innovation and collaboration within the industry. Furthermore, the UAE boasts a strong regulatory framework that aligns with international standards, ensuring compliance and safety while expediting market approval processes. This predictable and transparent regulatory environment minimizes the risks associated with product development and launch.
In addition, the UAE’s culturally diverse and educated workforce contributes to a skilled labor pool for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. The presence of talent from around the world allows companies to tap into a rich knowledge base and create a collaborative and innovative workforce. Lastly, the UAE’s commitment to continuous growth and development is evident in its Vision 2021 and beyond. The country’s ambitious plans to diversify its economy and build a knowledge-based society provide a stable and predictable environment for long-term investments in the healthcare sector.
While challenges may arise, such as competition and varying market dynamics, the UAE’s strategic advantages and unwavering commitment to progress position it as a compelling destination for pharmaceutical and medical device companies seeking growth and success in the Middle East and beyond.
Source: Delveinsight http://www.delveinsight.com/